Push into Your Most Effective Upper Body Exercise
The pushup is one of the most common bodyweight exercises in the world, but the question is: are you doing them properly? Odds are you could build more strength than you ever thought possible by slightly tweaking how you perform this one simple exercise.
Here at GymnasticBodies, the pushup is viewed as an entry-level progression for more advanced pushing and pressing exercises like handstand pushups. As such, athletes are required to master pushups with perfect technique and form. This can take some time, however, because whether it is due to lack of strength or an over-abundance of ego, many trainees struggle with proper pushup execution. Let's sift through the confusion, set aside what is unnecessary, and focus on the essentials.
Perfect the Basics
To start, all trainees need to begin with incline pushups. Set a bar to approximately hip height, and keep your body tight and legs together. Grip the bar just outside of shoulder-width and slowly lower your body until your chest touches the bar. Pause briefly, stay tight, and strongly push your body up until your elbows are completely straight.
Knee pushups are not usually the best substitution here! Some trainers recommend knee pushups for beginners, but this exercise crucially lacks the full-body tension that full pushups require. Adjust the difficulty of the pushup by elevating your hands, not dropping down to your knees.
Many athletes will mistakenly think they are too advanced for incline pushups, having grown up completing pushup tests in school or in the military. This is wrong! These trainees will often hit a plateau due to a lack of proper standards in their previous preparation. Take the ego hit, regress a step back to incline pushups, and demonstrate actual mastery before moving on to more advanced work.
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Once incline pushups have been mastered, it is time to start working on full pushups on the floor. Begin from a plank position with arms and legs completely straight and locked out. Remember, almost straight is still bent! Descend towards the floor slowly, keeping elbows stacked over wrists and core tight. Pause briefly at the bottom, then push strongly against the floor, moving your entire body at once without any sagging or arching from your torso.
The most common problem with the pushup is a lack of complete range of motion. At the top, your elbows should be fully extended, and your shoulders should be fully protracted. At the bottom your chin, chest, and hips will brush the floor at the same time, ensuring that you are low enough while maintaining a straight body line. When in doubt, you can always push a little higher at the top to ensure that you are performing a full range of motion.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Many trainers confuse their clients with dozens of variations like diamond pushups, tricep pushups, and hindu pushups. Filter out the fluff, and stay focused on the path. Remember, the pushup is an entry-level bodyweight exercise for more advanced planes of movement like overhead pressing.
Accordingly, advanced pushup progressions need to decrease the leverage and thus increase the demand on the shoulder girdle. In a normal pushup you lift approximately 64% of your bodyweight, so as you progress you will need to gradually inch that percentage closer to full bodyweight. Check out the upper body progressions from the Foundation Series to learn more.
GymnasticBodies pushups and upper body workouts will build exceptional basic strength, allowing you to ultimately advance to more impressive and challenging exercises!